Like most NHL fanatics, you probably signed up for a fantasy league at yahoo.com or some office shindig.
Well, odds are you are doing great—or terrible. Don't worry, I am in the latter predicament.
My team was doing great until my No. 1 draft pick Martin Brodeur was injured, leaving me with Carey Price. With a couple more injuries to Pavol Demitra and Mike Komisarek and the rather disappointing plus-minus of Todd Bertuzzi, I found myself in 10th place this week out of 12 teams.
Well, I want to warn those who are ignorant to the goings-on of the NHL. I make this my plea to those who wish to claim glory among strangers or co-workers. The rules of my league are as follows—goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points, and shots on goal for the skaters. For the goalies, it goes by wins, goals-against average, save percentage, and shutouts.
The format is head-to-head in the 10 categories, and points are accumulated throughout the season. So if I lead a week in goals, plus-minus, shots on goal, and goals-against average, but my opponent leads in all other categories, he wins that week 6-4. (If a category is tied, the point doesn't count.) The player with the most points wins at the end of the season.
This is the format I play in, and the one I am most accustomed to. Here I will give you the best team possible and some tips on players you can snatch up from free agency.
Now I am sure your league holds a draft in which, one by one, you go down the list of players you would like. So I am going to try to make it as realistic as possible. Chances are your fellow league members are as knowledgeable as you are in the happenings of the NHL.
For this team I will choose two lines (six forwards and four defencemen) with an additional three players to cover injuries and other such happenings, as well as three goalies. That's a total of 13 starters.
Now I will start with the first line. This is the line that gives you the most production in all areas of your league.
You want to look at your forwards to give you the majority of your goals and assists. Look to your RW, or anyone from your top line, to give you a lot of SOG and PPP. Your top defenceman should also have a large number of SOG with offencsive production. A large number of PM would be a plus, but I will address that later.
Your first-line LW should be a great one, someone who can contribute a lot of assists while still putting the puck in the net. Hopefully, you got an Alexander Ovechkin with his 17-23-40 and 170 SOG—an NHL leader. He may not have the point production of Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby right now, but his SOG and G statistics will prove vital in the long run. His plus-10 isn't bad either.
If you are not lucky enough to have Ovechkin, Thomas Vanek would be a terrific pick. He leads the NHL with 24 goals and he has an impressive 111 SOG, though his plus-two isn't that great and his 22 PM might be shaggy.
I recommend Dany Heatley, who is surging in all categories, or Alexander Semin or Simon Gagne who have over 30 points each and stand at plus-18. Their SOG might not be that great, but it's worth it in the end.
This position is more of the goal-scoring bit with fewer penalties. I recommend you look for a player with at least 10 goals so far and 20 points. His SOG should be above 90 and he should have plus-minus of at least six.
Jerome Iginla would be a preferable choice except for his minus-one. Marian Hossa is surging with 16 goals, a plus-nine, and 131 SOG—and is a No. 1 choice for me. Devin Setoguchi of the San Jose Sharks is doing fairly well this season with 15-17-32, plus-15 and 102 SOG. He would be well worth it if no one has picked him up yet. Patrick Sharp or Phill Kessel would be a decent choice as well.
You want to have a centre who can give assists, good PM, and a decent SOG. Around the range of 10 to 15 assists, 25 PM, and 70 SOG would be a decent choice. Perfect choices would be Malkin or Crosby. But alas, not everyone can get a hold of them.
Some unlikely choices would be Mikko Koivu or Niklas Backstrom. Doug Weight would be wise, as he has a bundle of assists while still producing PM. Jeff Carter is doing amazing with 21-11-32, 22 PM, and 131 SOG. Mike Ribeiro would be a good choice, as he tends to improve later in the season. Jonathan Toews would be wise to catch and Saku Koivu, if not prone to injuries, would suffice.
With these guys, you have to get a large number of PM. Look for around four goals and over 10 assists, a plus-minus of at least five, and over 50 SOG. Nicklas Lidstrom would be a steal for most people in that aspect. Andrei Markov, Shea Weber, and Dion Phaneuf would be likely candidates for most leagues.
Unlikely choices are Sheldon Souray, who is having a great season (8-14-22), Jay Bouwmeester, Daniel Girardi, and Dennis Wideman. All great D-men who lead in the categories.
You only have three choices. Make one of them your absolute No. 1 goalie. Brodeur would be the most logical choice; he is perfect in all aspects. But since he is injured, ditch him. Same with Roberto Luongo and Rick DiPietro.
You want a goalie who is secured in a No. 1 position with a good chance of winning every night. Evgeni Nabokov and Henrik Lundqvist would be your next top choices.
Odds are No. 1 goalies will be gone by about round three or four. I say take a top contending goalie in round two as to not take a chance. (Always take a skater in round one.)
So now you have your top contending goalies in Nabokov, Lundqvist, Jean-Sabastien Giguere, Marto Turco, Tim Thomas, etc. Your next two goalies should also have No. 1 jobs or be in contention for a team's No. 1 job. Price would be perfect, as would Andy McDonald, Chris Osgood, Manny Fernandez, Steve Mason, or Jason LaBarbera.
I have here a realistic depth chart—try to follow it. :)
LW No. 1: Ovechkin
He is a great passer and greater scorer and is a league leader in SOG. Have a LW with those qualities and you're set.
LW No. 2: Milan Lucic
His 20 points is not that impressive but his 58 PM are. This player rounds out your LW with PM and PPP.
LW No. 3: Blake Wheeler or Tomas Holmstrom
These players have an impressive plus-minus. Though most LWs don't have a good plus-minus, you could score a good one in these players.
RW No. 1: Kessel or Patrick Kane
These players are pure goal scorers with good passing. Like the LW, you need to rely on SOG over 70 at least and don't worry about PM for this one.
RW No. 2: Setoguchi or Brian Gionta
A more rounded-out player who has an average amount of goals and assists. You want a RW who has a good +\- to bring you up. Setoguchi gives you a +15 with 102 SOG. Remember SOG never hurts.
RW No. 3: Teemu Selanne or Mike Knuble
These players thrive on the PP and PK. Their plus-minus might not be the best—a plus-two or in the negatives. But with the PPP, you get an extra advantage over your opponent.
Centre No. 1: Malkin or Crosby
These players strive to make assists. To them, it is how you help win the game. Their SOG may not be that good, but hopefully your LW and RW covered that. Look for a player with a lot of assists and good plus-minus, with most assists going on the PPP.
Centre No. 2: Jeff Carter
This player scores so many goals and gets so many shots on net, good things are bound to happen. Get a second-liner who can do both.
Centre No. 3: David Backes or Adam Mair
These players are the gritty type. Hopefully you have enough scoring to look into the PM for your players. This is where your No. 3 centre comes in. With the vast amount of PM, it will even out and go onto the D-men.
D No. 1: Markov or Dan Boyle
These D-men lead all other defencemen in points. Your first D-man should have a lot of points, preferably goals.
D No. 2: Phaneuf
With the majority of points coming from the assist-giver on your team, you have the edge on both point-getters. With a large amount of SOG, too, it gives you the advantage as well as being the QB on the PP and PK.
D No. 3: Mike Green or Mark Streit
These players go under the radar until the eighth round at most times. Do yourself a favour and pick off a QB on the power play. They may not score a lot of points, but the majority of the points they acquire are from special teams.
D No 4: Marc-Edouard Vlasic or Wideman
These players round out the gaps left in your lines. A good +\- should be in the mix as well as a respectable amount of points. Hopefully at the end you have a wide range of players who can serve well on your team.
Goalie No. 1: Nabokov or Thomas
These goalies have good teams in front of them. When one slips past, they can make a great save and earn shutouts from time to time. Look for a goalie who can give you a great GAA and SV percentage.
Goalie No. 2: Price or Vesa Toskala
Now that you have a good SV percentage and GAA, let loose and go for a sure win in other goalies. Price is good because people underestimate him since he is only in his second year. Where Toskala has a bad GAA and SV percentage, he still wins games.
Goalie No. 3: Joey MacDonald, Nikolai Khabibulin or Peter Budaj
These goalies are contesting for the No. 1 spot on their teams or are a No. 2 goalie behind a No. 1 goalie who has become injured, allowing these guys to prove themselves (Kevin Weekes, MacDonald). These goalies may have gotten under the cracks and not been appreciated to the full extent. Look for a No. 3 goalie who can give you good coverage in wins and the odd SO.
Well, that's my take on NHL fantasy teams. Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. And, as always, keep your stick on the ice and Happy Hockey.